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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

02 December 2012

Week 50 - December 13

December 12
     Ephesians 1-4
December 13
     Ephesians 5-6
     Titus 1-3

Ephesians is all about reconciliation and unity in the body of Christ, and Titus reminds us that our beliefs form our behavior as well as outlining qualifications for church leadership.

Paul opens his letter to the Ephesians by reminding them how rich they are – God chose, adopted and accepted us (1:4-5). Christ redeemed, forgave, revealed God’s will and made us an inheritance (1:7-12). The spirit sealed us and guaranteed our inheritance (1:13-14). If that was the entire message of Ephesians, we could rest in these verses alone for eternity!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)

Paul tells us not only of the possessions we have because of the free gift of salvation through Christ, but he also reminds us of our spiritual position in Christ (all sinners, but in particular the Gentiles).

As sinners we were dead (2:1), disobedient (2:2-3), depraved and destined for hell (3). God loved us so much that he made us alive in Christ (2:5), raised us up in the heavenlies (2:6) and keeps us in the grace of Christ (2:8). He reminds us that our salvation doesn’t come from our own abilities, but through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Paul goes on to discuss salvation for everyone in general, but then he turns his attention to the things Christ did for the Gentiles in particular. God had set Israel apart and showed that separation physically through the mark of circumcision. Jews (the circumcision) had looked down on the uncircumcised. God wasn’t happy with that – Jews thought that their position gave them a free ticket to heaven. Gentiles, on the other hand, were “without”, or outside of the specialness of the Jewish people. Paul points out exactly what God did for all those who are not Jews – the Gentiles.

Jews had always considered themselves special – and they were. But once Christ died, those differences weren’t critical. After Christ died, all have to come to God through His blood. All have to accept the free gift of salvation. There is no longer blood sacrifice for atonement of sins. Christ’s death was the once-for-all sacrifice that binds Jews and Gentiles together. Jews and Gentiles are now one nation and one family (2:19-22). This is the mystery of Ephesians 3:3 and 3:6, and this was the reason for Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles.

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:6 (ESV)

Paul entreats the Ephesians to walk in unity, worthy of the calling we have received. How can we walk in unity if we aren’t humble, patient and gentle with those around us? This passage also serves to remind us that although the world says that there are many ways to obtain our salvation – that God is a loving God and if you’re a good enough person you will go to heaven – it is not true. There is only one way to heaven and if you have not accepted Jesus as Savior, you are not united in the body of Christ.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (ESV)

We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t let the sun go down on your anger” and here we find it’s Biblical origin. It’s sometimes almost fun (in a perverse way) to maintain anger and bitterness against someone. Our society is full of people with a victim mentality. I have a friend who is so angry and bitter that it’s affecting her health. When I read through this passage, I stopped and took stock of my own life to find any hidden kernels of anger or bitterness. Is it time for you to do that as well – to stop being a victim, take responsibility for your actions, and forgive those who have hurt you? Christ forgave your sins – emulate Him and do the same to anyone you’re holding a grudge. You’ll feel better AND you’ll be in God’s will.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:25-32 (ESV)

When we were children, most of us looked up to our parents and tried to emulate them. We might have even heard “do as I say and not as I do” on more than one occasion. As children of God, we are expected to look up to Him and emulate Jesus. We’ll never heard “do as I say and not as I do”, for Jesus lived a perfect, sinless, blameless life. How do we emulate Jesus?

·         Walk in love (5:1-2)
·         Walk in purity (5:3-6)
·         Walk as children of the light (5:7-14)
·         Walk in wisdom (5:15-17)
·         Walk in submission to one another, understanding your place in the body (5:21 – 6:9)

Paul closes by reminding us that we can’t resist the devil without God’s armor. We need prayer and the Word of God to help us in our Christian walk. I know some people who get out of bed every morning and pantomime putting on the armor of God!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:10-18 (ESV)

We moved on to the book of Titus, which exhorts us to live out our faith – our beliefs shape our actions! After greeting Titus, Paul moves on to the discussion of church leaders. This isn’t a particularly popular subject, since it seems to place women below men, but Paul gives his reasons – it’s in the Bible – and ladies, whether or not we like it, we have to obey it. Paul didn’t write for “his generation”. Because the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we have to understand that no matter how much we disagree, we have to live by what’s in it.

Paul dealt with the issue of women’s and men’s roles in 1 Corinthians 11 and in 1 Timothy 2, where he explains why woman can’t have authority.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 1 Timothy 2:12-14 (ESV)

In Titus, he affirms his statements by giving the qualifications of a leader:

Appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Titus 1:5-9 (ESV)

Paul reminds Titus that a healthy church is comprised of older saints who train the younger people in godly living (2:1-4); younger people who model the godly behavior (2:4-8). Paul discusses the role of Christian slaves, but we can certainly apply it to our behavior as employees (2:9-15).  Our role as citizens is outlined (3:1-8), as well as the expected response to toxic people (3:9-11).

Paul had a lot to say in these two chapters – and a lot of things he said were convicting to me. How about you? What did you see in these chapters that I didn’t outline? I’m always interested in what you found. We need to learn together.

See you tomorrow for the final blog post this week.

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